But not just any pizza. This is a special kind. And instead of eating it, you must give it away to someone in need before your race. It doesn't really matter when in the day that happens. In return, if you're lucky, the pizza recipient will wish you a good race and shower cosmic karma upon you.
I know this to be true, because that's exactly what happened to me the day before posting a 2:54:00 Wildflower Olympic time this past Sunday, 10 minutes faster than my predicted best-case scenario, good for a top 50 finish in my age group (top 23%) and top 26% among all men. I even saw all my swim training pay off with a 29:36 mile swim, breaking the 30-minute mark for the first time and beating my old personal best open-water swim by four minutes.
I need to find more pizza to give away!
Here's what happened. My buddy Dustin and I were waiting in the stands near the finish line for our friend Darrin to finish the long-course, which ran the day before the Olympic race. Darrin had a long day but demonstrated what it meant to persevere over adversity. He snapped his chain within the first mile of the bike portion, walked the bike a mile back to our RV camper, fixed the chain (pictured below), walked his bike back to the course and was on his way. While we were waiting for Darrin, Dustin and I both felt mid-afternoon hunger pangs. I went on a scouting mission for pizza and on my way back with two slices in hand, a girl who had just completed the long course walked up next to me and said, "I could attack you for a slice of that pizza right now!"
After a little banter back-and-forth, I realized she might not be joking.
I told the girl, whose name I never got, to follow me back to the stands. Once I gave Dustin his slice, I tore half of my pizza and gave it to the girl. Even though she protested at first, she quickly relented. After doing so, she looked up at me, smiled wide and said, "You are going to have the race of a lifetime tomorrow. You just got a TON of race karma. You are going to kick major ass."
Instead of making a joke back or some self-deprecating comment, I did something I normally don't do when someone says something nice to or about me...I simply said, "Thanks, I hope so."
So it was wished, so it occurred.
And I have pizza to thank. So there you go, fellow triathletes...you can train as hard as you want, but maybe simply doing something nice for a fellow racer will put you in the best position to achieve your goals.
In the end, while the race itself was a special moment for me, it was overshadowed by the "one and only" experience that is Wildflower. There were a reported 30,000 people on hand to witness the weekend's activities. And many of them dotted the entire race course cheering on athletes of all abilities. I can say that in least two spots on the bike and at least three on the run I received a much-needed adrenaline boost just from the encouragement. (The bikini-clad college girls handing out water at the aid stations helped a little too.) The crowd was at its finest in the stands near the finish line, where runners' gritty and sometimes-grinning facial expressions told lengthy tales of dedication, sacrifice and determination. I welled up with tears on Saturday at least five times watching fathers pick up their children to run to the end with them, or small children high-fiving strangers as they passed by. Or couples holding hands while running to the finish together.
The magic of the sport is not solely possessed by the elite. Far from it. It's a form of karmic pizza all its own, where triumphant finishers give back energy to the crowd as much if not more than what they're gaining by completing a massive personal challenge.
We think we're taking, gaining, obtaining, and striving. But really, we're giving, sharing, encouraging and caring.
If you haven't been to Wildflower, go. Even if you don't race, go. There's a reason it's called the "one and only."
And if you've been to Wildflower, let's sign up again for next year.
I'll even bring the pizza.
204 days and counting.